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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 8, Issue 9
May 2012
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

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Welcome back to our StarTeaching newsletter, 
Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels. 

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In This Week's Issue (Click the Quick Links below):

What's New @ StarTeaching   Tech Corner: The Power of the Google Search   U.S. Congress Unit Plan
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: Make Your Podcast Sticky (Infographic) Classroom Displays Themes on Life: 
"God's Camera"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Interdisciplinary Teaching (part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
Some Practical Tips While Teaching In Secondary Classes
Student Teachers' Lounge: Using Random Student Cards in Class
Book of the Month Club:
Teaching Reading in Small Groups
  Website of the Month:
End of the Year Planning
  Article of the Week: "Where do the Names of the Days of the Week Come From?"

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!

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We are also looking for an administrator interested in sharing 21st century leadership skills and ideas in schools.  

Email your resume and letter of interest to:  editor@starteaching.com


Guest Writer

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U.S. Congress
Unit Plan

By Kelly Payne

Knowledge of government enables individuals to define the roles of citizens within a constitutional democracy and to compare the American system of government with other systems. Civic knowledge builds understanding about the exercise of power. With knowledge of government and politics, citizens are equipped to evaluate domestic and international policy and to exert influence in public affairs.

US Congress Unit Plan

Subject(s): Social Studies Grade/Level: 9-12 

Standards addressed by unit: Michigan Curriculum Frameworks 
• Subject: Social Studies • Strand III: Civic 


Students will use knowledge of American government and politics to make informed decisions about governing their communities.  Over time and in varying contexts, students construct an increasingly sophisticated civic perspective organized by the following themes: 

• Standard III.1: Purposes of Government - All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize government to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness. All societies establish governments to serve intended purposes. The purposes served by a government and the priorities set have significant consequences for the individual and society. In order to accomplish their purposes, governments organize themselves in different ways. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Evaluate how effectively the federal government is serving the purposes for which it was created. Performance Benchmark 3: Evaluate the relative merits of the American presidential system and parliamentary systems. 

• Standard III.4 : American Government and Politics - All students will explain how American governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels provide for the limitation and sharing of power and how the nation’s political system provides for the exercise of power. The American system of government is based on shared power. Citizens who operate effectively within the federal system understand its institutions and how to work within them. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Analyze causes of tension between the branches of government. 

Time Required:10 class periods. 1.5 Hrs per class. 

Objective(s): To learn the basic workings of Congress and the process of how a bill becomes a law. Summary:  In this unit students will learn the basic workings of the United States Congress through various activities and learning techniques. Students will analyze and discuss current legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Students then will create their own bills and take them through the legislative process, with the end result being participation in a mock Congress simulation. 

STAGE I: IDENTIFY DESIRED RESULTS Enduring Understanding(s):  Students will understand the process of how Congress passes legislation that affects their daily lives and futures. Essential Questions:  How and why does Congress pass legislation that affects and changes a variety of aspects of life in America today? Knowledge and Skills: Students will be acquainted with what Congress does; Students will Identify how Congress is elected; Students will be able to describe the structure of each house of Congress; Students will be able to explain the in depth process of how a bill becomes a law. 

STAGE II: DETERMINE ACCEPTABLE EVIDENCE OF LEARNING (ASSESSMENT) What evidence will show that students understand? 

Performance Tasks (summarized):  Student written bills on a relevant issue in their life (attached), Students notes- to follow study guide and packet (attached), Redistricting activity, Mock Congress Simulation (attached)  
1. Congress Packet Page 2 
2. Congress Packet Page 9: Describes the Process of How a Bill becomes a law 
3. Congress Packet Page 1: Congress Study Guide 
4. Congress Packet page 11: Blank bill for creation of own legislation 
5. Day 1 Congress simulation proceedings  To use the first day of Congressional simulation 

Other evidence: Committee Reports, Headline Activity, Pop Quiz Race (group activity, attached), Written reflection on Mock Congress (attached), How a bill becomes a law quiz, US Congress test. 

1. Pop Quiz Race Reinforcement activity. Students complete this the day after finishing study guide. Students are given 7 minutes to fill in working off of memory, then they are given 5 minutes to work with notes, the final step is group work, students work together to make sure they all have the same information, and that it is correct. Groups race to get done first, then the group finished first, with the most correct receive a prize. 
2. Written reflection after Mock Congress - This is the Collins writing across the curriculum style 

Unprompted evidence:  Dialogue and participation in mock Congress, Discussion on a day in the life of a member of Congress, discussion on current bills in US House and Senate. 

Student Self-Assessment:  Students will self assess through the bills they write, and how well they participate in the mock Congress.





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Make Your Podcast Sticky

By Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students.Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is written by Tony Vincent. Tony taught fifth grade in Omaha, Nebraska for six years, and three of those years his students were pioneers in educational handheld computing. Then, as technology specialist at Willowdale Elementary, Tony brought the newest technologies into classrooms. Whether it was digital video, blogs, email, podcasts, or handhelds, Tony helped Willowdale teachers and students understand the usefulness of new technologies. Currently, Tony is self-employed as an education consultant. He conducts workshops, presents at conferences, and writes books based on his teaching experiences and passion for new technologies.

Always excited to share, Tony has documented much of what he knows about handheld computing and podcasting on his website, learninginhand.com. There you'll find useful software collections, the best webs links for handhelds, complete lesson plans, and an informative blog.

Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms! He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.

There are six principles of sticky ideas according to Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick. Sticky ideas are ones that we can plainly understand, clearly remember, and easily retell. When teachers and students make educational podcasts, whether audio or video, we want them to be sticky. I created the infographic below that that applies the principles outlined in Made To Stick to podcasting for teaching and learning. You can click the image for a PDF version of the infographic.




iPod Touch

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Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
Each of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to difficult.

At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as Scores Obtained.

A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18 levels depending on the marks one scores during the test. 

Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by clicking on "history", which gives complete details of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence level and encourages more participation to eventually culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and concentration.

Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance their capability.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

Three versions of the software exist: Individual Software on either CD or Online,   Family Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



Student Teachers' Lounge: 
For The Things They Don't Teach You In College

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Using Random Student Cards in Class

Much has been said and written lately about providing students with choices. I'm all about any methods which will improve student involvement in class, giving them ownership in their learning. There are many ways to give students choices, options, or just to provide random results and change up the monotony. This article will discuss how to use random results in typical class situations.

Much has been said and written lately about providing students with choices. I'm all about any methods which will improve student involvement in class, giving them ownership in their learning. There are many ways to give students choices, options, or just to provide random results and change up the monotony. This article will discuss how to use random results in typical class situations.

Ever wonder if you choose certain students more (or less) often in class than others? Or would you like to be able to completely call on students at random?

A great technique is to make and use an index card deck with your students' names on the cards. On the first day of any of my classes, I pass out blank lined index cards (we use the 3 x 5 size) to all the students. I then have them fill these out with information we can use later on in class. Then I collect them and keep them separated by class with a rubber band. Then I can quickly access the names of all of my students. This helps for learning their names quickly too.

The random calling technique will increase your students' attention, since any one of them could be chosen at any time without you playing favorites or ignoring anyone. Always try to choose several students each time you use the cards, and everyone will quickly understand that they may be the next person called. No student wants to be embarrassed, so they will all formulate some type of response to give in case their card is drawn next. What information needs to be on the cards? That depends on what you want to know about your students.  I ask for at least their names, parent's names, and phone contact numbers.

In one upper corner, write in the student's hour (I also like to circle the number) so you can sort them out easily later. Other useful information could include text book or calculator numbers, birth dates, and even students' interests or hobbies. How often do I use the cards? Several times each hour! We use the cards in warm ups so everyone has a random chance of being picked. The cards are used for choosing random teams or groups. They are great for class discussions, since students cannot just be quiet and disappear; every discussion question can be answered by several students in succession, who must either build on previous information given or generate a new line of thinking. I also use them to ask questions before students are dismissed. If the question is answered correctly, I let that student leave early.

The cards can be shuffled each time you use them, or you can leave the order and pick up there again later, ensuring you've called on every student before repeating.

Now, can you stack the deck? Of course! Because you hold the cards, only you know if you've chosen truly at random. This is useful when you just know a student isn't paying attention, or if you want to check understanding by a specific student.

Should you worry about students who still seem to never be called upon? That does happen, but it will even out as the year goes by. I've had the opposite happen too, where a student was actually chosen three times in a row, even though I shuffled the deck each time!

Student hobbies or activities can be great for making connections to class material. As a warm up or sponge activity, for example, use your cards to randomly call on students to state how what they learned in class could be applied to or connected to their hobby. The cards are great for choosing students to read aloud in class. And as the teacher, you can still stack the deck to match up appropriate students with a paragraph's difficulty level. I also try to assess student's reading ability by choosing particular passages I want them to read aloud. Then I make sure the student's card is chosen.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

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The Power of the Google Search

By Mark Benn, Instructional Technologist

Mark Benn is a Technology Integration Coach for VARtek Services, Inc. Having just completed almost 25 years as an educator for Inland Lakes Public Schools, and having received a Masters of Science in Educational Media Design and Technology from Full Sail University in 2010, he now works in a position that supports teachers of K-12 classrooms in the southwest Ohio region that are interested in integrating technology into their learning environments. VARtek Services mission is to be the best provider of managed technology solutions for enhanced learning in the K–12 marketplace. Our website is: www.vartek.com

Google is the most widely used website in daily use, and the search function of Google is unrivaled by other sites. Use this link to read about the power of the Google search, and then decide how you can use these progressively more difficult functions with your classroom:





Your browser may not support display of this image.  

Check out our selection of past articles, including more about groups and stations, from previous issues at:




  StarTeaching Feature Writer

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Classroom Displays

Article courtesy of EdArticle.com:   www.edarticle.com 

Classroom displays are an integral part of a classroom.  They help children feel valued and involved.  Their artwork is often displayed on the walls but needs framing appropriately.  Classroom displays can help. We stock a huge number of classroom display products, from display letters to banners, borders and trimmers, all designed to offer you choice.  Classroom displays are critical to your success. 

School bulletin boards and Classroom Displays can be updated as often as you like – some themes will obviously last longer than others.  Children are very engaged in their classroom displays and will no doubt have strong views as to what should, or should not, be included.  It is a simple way and impactful way to share information and update others on the work going on in your classroom.   Schools have a number of communal areas which can create a welcoming and high impact first impression when classroom display products are used effectively.  The atmosphere of an area can be changed almost instantly.

There are a number of free resources available on the web which can help you with ideas for what to put up in your displays.  Sites such as Classroom Display have a huge selection of great value and high quality resources which can be used again and again.



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Interdisciplinary Teaching
(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Interdisciplinary teaching is a method, or set of methods, used to teach a unit across different curricular disciplines. For example, the seventh grade Language Arts, Science and Social Studies teachers might work together to form an interdisciplinary unit on rivers.

The local river system would be the unifying idea, but the English teacher would link it to Language Arts by studying river vocabulary and teaching students how to do a research report. The science teacher might teach children about the life systems that exist in the river, while the Social Studies teacher might help students research the local history and peoples who used the river for food and transport.

Types of Interdisciplinary Teaching

There are many different types, or levels, of interdisciplinary teaching. On one end, schools might employ an interdisciplinary team approach, in which teachers of different content areas assigned to one group of students who are encouraged to correlate some of their teaching (Vars, 1991). The most common method of implementing integrated, interdisciplinary instruction is the thematic unit, in which a common theme is studied in more than one content area (Barton & Smith, 2000).

The example given above about rivers would be considered multidisciplinary or parallel design, which is defined as lessons or units developed across many disciplines with a common organizing topic (Jackson & Davis, 2000).

One of the foremost scholars of interdisciplinary teaching techniques is James Beane, who advocates for curriculum integration, which is curriculum that is collaboratively designed around important issues. It has four major components: the integration of experiences, social integration, the integration of knowledge, and integration as a curriculum design. It differs from other types of interdisciplinary teaching in that it begins with a central theme that emerges from questions or social concerns students have, without regard to subject delineations (Beane, 1997).

In 1989, the seminal work, Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design and Implementation, edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs was published by ASCD (Alexandria, Va. In this work, she presented a continuum of options for design spanning focused disciplined work to parallel to multidisciplinary to full integration.

Benefits of Interdisciplinary Teaching

A school district in Michigan created integration plans for thematic units, based on the ideas of Howard Gardner about multiple intelligences, in a yearlong pilot program. The results of the program included “sustained enthusiasm” from the staff, parents, and students, increased attendance rates, and improvement in standardized test scores, “especially from students with the poorest test results” (Bolak, Bialach, & Duhnphy, 2005).

Flowers, Mertens, & Mulhall identify five important outcomes and findings of their experiences with interdisciplinary teaching and planning: common planning time is vital, schools that team have a more positive work climate, parental contact is more frequent, teachers report a higher job satisfaction, and student achievement scores in schools that team are higher than those that do not team (1999).

Additionally, Pumerantz & Galanto find that interdisciplinary teaching allows for students to, “Proceed at a pace commensurate with their interests, skills, and experiences” (1972).

Integrated instruction helps teachers better utilize instructional time and look deeper into subjects through a variety of content-specific lens. Another benefit of integrated instruction is that teachers can better differentiate instruction to individual student needs. Integrated instruction also allows for authentic assessment (Barton & Smith, 2000). A final benefit of interdisciplinary teaching is that students have a chance to work with multiple sources of information, thus ensuring they are receiving a more inclusive perspective than they would from consulting one textbook (Wood, 1997).

See more in our next issue!

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Dogman’s Back!

  The legends of the Michigan Dogman come alive in six haunting tales by folklore author, Frank Holes, Jr.  Based upon both mythology and alleged real stories of the beast, this collection is sure to fire the imagination!

  Spanning the decades and the geography of the Great Lakes State , Frank weaves:

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

A terrifying encounter in the U.P.’s remote Dickinson County

A BLOG, begun as one man’s therapy, becomes a chronicle of sightings from around Michigan

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

A pioneer family meets more than they expected on the trail north

A campfire tale of ancient betrayal handed down through the Omeena Tribe

Welcome to Dogman Country!

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Year of the Dogman Website
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Haunting of Sigma Website
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Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website 
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The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  




We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.  Click here for more information:





New Teachers' Niche: 
A Place for Teachers New To The Craft

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Some Practical Tips While Teaching In Secondary Classes


Yasmeen Jumani has been a teacher Educator for the past 11 years.  She has done her Masters in Islamic History from the University of Karachi.  She has a Master in Education from Hamdard University, Institute of Education and Social Sciences, A VT certificate from AKU-IED along with an advance diploma in (PTEP) Professional Teacher Education Program from IIS and AKU- IED.

Being a teacher, I know it is very important to engage students in learning at all stages. However, many students' attention have a limited span especially in the secondary classes; they fed up and get bored quickly comparative to those in other age levels. It has also verified that after 8 minutes of constant speaking, listeners can be  frustrated to stay alert until the end.  Therefore, it is very important for teachers of all levels to enhance students retention power as much as possible because low energy levels won’t allow students to take interest in teaching, learning, and performing tasks effectively.

A passionate teacher always keeps this in mind that children of any age require fulltime engagement. This can be done through various means by bringing innovative teaching strategies into the classroom. As Christensen, Garvin & Sweet mentioned, “To teach is to engage students in Learning.”  However, the engagement of students is possible in various ways. Thus there should be some way forward to keep our classes lively and interactive.  The following are some of the practical “Tips” where teachers could help their students to enjoy learning:

  1. It is healthier to start our class with a ' Recap' activity; this would help learners to link with the learned concept as a “reinforcement”
  2. It would be more appropriate to highlight key terminologies on the board with some visual designs. As a result, students could learn that piece of information with some sort of symbols up visually for a longer time.
  3. Often, front- seated students get more of the teacher's attention, while those sitting in the back have less of a chance to get the teacher’s eye contact.  Therefore, seating arrangements should keep on changing accordingly.
  4. It would be more appropriate to relate ideas with student’s practical life where they can find suitable and meaningful connections and relate learning with practicality.
  5. Whatever discussions or information is shared among students in a class by teachers, we can instruct students to describe learning  in their own words, pictures, rhyme, poems, or in some way related with any metaphor.
  6. While distributing notes, or marking answers from the book, if the teacher just highlights the key points, that will also enable students to relate and recall some on the major points.
  7. Taking notes is also a good strategy to remember about the class events; therefore encourage students to take notes.
  8. Once a while the teacher can give several topics to the class and instruct them to work in groups/pairs and present information in their own words (this will  be the greatest help for them) 
  9. The teacher’s own motivation and enthusiasm can play significant role.
  10. Often it seems that teachers assign a task after delivering the lecture. If this proposed assignment can be mentioned before initiating the lecture, I believe students would pay most of their attention throughout class, knowing they have to perform their role after the session.
  11.  As teachers, it’s necessary to keep on changing our strategies as needed, because monotonous ways don’t attract learners; hence we should also look for new methods and strategies in regard to pedagogical aspect (how to deliver the content).
  12. After the end of the session/lesson, teachers may ask students about “the learning of today” which will help them to recall and rethink.
  13.  If two- way communications take place, student’s retention and interaction power can be increased easily.  


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"God's Camera"

Themes on Life

More great wonders from the brains of kids...

A little girl walked to and from school daily.

The weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with thunder and lightning.

The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

Following each roar of thunder, lightning, like a flaming sword, would cut through the sky.

Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child's school.

As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile.

Another and another were to follow quickly and with each flash, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile.

When the mother's car drew up beside the child she lowered the window and called to her, "What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?"

The child answered,

"I am trying to look pretty. God keeps taking my picture."

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our first May issue. This month, our web partner Tony Vincent shares some techniques for ramping-up your podcasts while tech writer Mark Benn shares an article on using Google for advanced searches.

We are also featuring excellent articles on interdisciplinary teaching and classroom displays.

Look for more real math problems from Mary Ann Graziani, science activities from Helen De la Maza, and the Article of the Week from Frank Holes, Jr.  Be sure to join up on our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction as well as constant, updated streams of educational information.  

Of course, you should also check our website for a number of updates and re-designed pages.  We're starting to collect quite a few articles from educational experts all over the world.  See these archives on our website: www.starteaching.com



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Teaching Reading in Small Groups:
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Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 Dan auctioned off a storage unit for $1250.  If he makes 5% profit on the sale, how much money did he make?
Day 2 Barry bought a storage unit for $675.  He was then able to sell the contents for $840.  How much did he make?
Day 3 Jarrod bought a storage unit for $2750.  He was then able to sell the contents for $4190.  How much did he make?
Day 4 Brandi bought a storage unit for $125.  She was then able to sell the contents for $1883.  How much did she make?
Day 5 Darrell bought a storage unit for $3950.  He was then able to sell the contents for $5522.  How much did he make?
Day 6 Dave bought a storage unit for $1800.  However, he was only able to sell the contents for $1094.  How much did he lose?
Day 7 Nabila bought a storage unit for $3575.  However, she was only able to sell the contents for $917.  How much did she lose?
Day 8 Mark bought a storage unit for $3672.  This was three times as much as a unit that Tom bought.  How much did Tom's unit cost?
Day 9 Bonita bought a storage unit for $4290.  This was six times as much as a unit that Chris bought.  How much did Chris's unit cost?
Day 10 Together, Brandi and Jarrod spent $10,472 on three storage units.  How much was the average unit they bought?


Be sure to visit Mary Ann Graziani's website to pick up a copy of any of her THREE books for sale





Tech-Ed Articles

Check out our entire collection of technology articles, including:
* 21st Century Learning
* Integrating Technology
* Computer Literacy
* REAL activities you can use!




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Habitat Lesson
(click for PDF)

Habitat PowerPoint
slide show

Habitat PowerPoint slides
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Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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End of the Year Planning




Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

Visit his blog at: hank-englisheducation.



Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students. Tony Vincent
Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms!  He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.


Article of the Week
"Where Do The Names of the Days of the Week Come From?"
Click here to download the PDF
"Free Speech vs. Kids and Violent Video Games"
Click here to download the PDF


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